In this enormously funny, smart, and moving contemporary YA novel, fighting for the thing you love doesn't always turn out like in the movies.
"Hilarious, big-hearted, poignant...An unadulterated triumph." Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King
Movies have always helped Ethan Ashby make sense of the world. So when developers swoop in and say the classic Green Street Cinema is going to be destroyed to make room for luxury condos, Ethan is ready for battle. And so a motley crew of cinema employees comes together to save the place they love:
There's Sweet Lou, the elderly organist with a penchant for not-so-sweet language; Anjo, the too-cool projectionist; Griffin and Lucas who work concessions, if they work at all; and Ethan, their manager (who can barely manage his own life). Still, it's going to take a movie miracle for the Green Street to have a happy ending. And when Raina Allen, Ethan's oldest friend (and possible soul mate?), comes back to town after working in Hollywoodcue lights and musicit seems that miracle may have been delivered. But life and love aren't always like in the movies.
This Book is Not Yet Rated is about growing up, letting go, and realizing love hides in plain viewin the places that shape us, the people who raise us, the first loves who leave us, and the lives that fade in and fade out all around us.
"A beautifully written look at first love and first loss." Julie Buxbaum, author of What to Say Next
"Film aficionados and fans of John Green will especially like this one." Booklist, starred review
"It pulls you in, holds you...A funny and moving winner." Adi Alsaid, author of Never Always Sometimes
"I cannot get over how much I love this book." Jared Reck, author of A Short History of the Girl Next Door
"[A] sweet love story with a quest at its heart." PW
"Reel[s] you in...Absorbing...quirky and fun." VOYA
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 2.20(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Peter Bognanni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His debut novel, The House of Tomorrow, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction and the ALA Alex Award and has been adapted into a feature film. He teaches creative writing at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
Ethan’s Glossary of Film Terms
A completely black screen. Then, slowly,
an image becomes visible.
You’ve seen it a thousand times. First
darkness. Then the light.
Sound next. A face maybe. A landscape.
A world born before your eyes. One minute you’re sitting there in the dim theater with
a room full of strangers, and the next you
are somewhere else.
It only takes a second, but it feels like magic every time.
A Fade In says: Welcome.
It says: Shhhhhh
A story is about to start.
When I was fourteen, I started watching a movie a day.
It wasn’t always easy to fit them in.
There was life to contend with. Homework. Job. School. Sustenance. The occasional human interaction. But I tried my best to do it no matter what. No matter how tired I might be. Saturdays were my binge days when I left reality behind for hours, cocooned in my vintage Star Wars bedspread with only a box of cereal and a warm Dr Pepper to get me through the day. Sundays I rested, like the Lord.
Then I watched a movie.
I’m seventeen now, so if you do the math, that’s three years at 365 days a year. Which is 1,095 total days. With an average run time of about 90 minutes a movie, that’s at least 1,642 hours. Or, if you prefer: 68 days.
Sixty-eight days of movie time. Sixty-eight days of being someone else.
For a person who spends most of his life indoors, I’ve done some fairly epic things during those hours. For example: I’ve stormed a castle with some samurai in feudal Japan, which I totally recommend. I’ve done heroin in Scotland and watched a zombie baby crawl on the ceiling (don’t recommend). I’ve been a piano prodigy, a submarine captain, and a prison inmate, not necessarily in that order. I have whispered my secrets into a tree, pulled a human heart from a toilet, and walked a tightrope across the New York skyline in a pair of revealing tights.
And whenever my mother or anyone else well-meaning asks me why I spend so much time in a darkened room, staring at a glowing screen, I answer with a question of my own: Why do you live one life? As in: Why be content with one life when you could live one thousand and ninety-five? A few of them are bound to be more interesting than your own. Or in my case: most of them.
Aside from a few movies by this Japanese director, Ozu, and long sections of The Hobbit, which should have been called The Desolation of My Attention Span, it doesn’t take much to beat the movie of my life these days.
For one thing, I work at a dying movie theater. That should come as no surprise. The movie part, anyway. It pays almost nothing, but it makes my daily quota a little easier to meet. Though I should clarify right off the bat that by “work at,” I mean “am the boss of.” I used to be just another humble employee of the Green Street Cinema in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but then the owner, Randy, had a personal crisis, skipped town, and left me in charge during his absence. He never came back.
I have two theories about why he chose me.
The first is that I am the longest-standing employee of the Green Street aside from Sweet Lou, our organ player, who is maybe two hundred years old.
And second: Randy was once pretty chummy with my dad, who used to be the chair of the Film Studies Department at the university down the street. For these reasons, I am currently the captain of this sinking ship.
Ahoy there, movie nerds. All aboard.
Call me Wendy.
That’s not my name. My name is Ethan, but Wendy is what everyone here calls me since I became de facto manager. If you haven’t guessed already—and why would you?—it’s a Peter Pan reference, and not a very clever one at that. I’m not sure how it got started, but one day I came in with the new schedules for the week and everyone was saying it with the same smirk on their faces.
I guess that makes my crew of barely employable movie geeks the Lost Boys. They aren’t all boys, but they are definitely lost anywhere other than this theater.
So Wendy it is.
I’ve learned to live with it. Just like I’ve learned to live with the smell of curdled butter, the perpetually clogged toilet in the employee bathroom, and the fact that I never see the projectionist leave the premises. But before I get too caught up in the details, I should let you know why any of this matters.
It all got started on a day when I thought my only problem was going to be the rats.
Rats, you say?
We had many. They enjoyed eating candy. Specifically the candy we stored to serve at our concession stand. But this was the first day a rat-chewed candy box had been served to a customer. Which is how my only break of the day was disturbed.
I was standing outside the theater, when Griffin, the stoned ticket taker, walked up behind me and cleared his throat.
“Um. Wendy?” he said.
I knew Griffin was stoned because Griffin is always stoned. If he came to work sober, planets would drift out of alignment. The tides would reverse. Or . . . he might just do his job competently. His favorite director is Terry Gilliam, and at last count, he had seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fifty-four times. He tried to re-enact it once, but he didn’t have a car, and he only made it to the city limits on his ten-speed before he got distracted by the extensive beef jerky selection at SuperAmerica.
“Remember what I said about bothering me on break?” I asked Griffin.
Griffin scratched the back of his neck. He pushed his enormous black glasses up his nose. His mop of dark hair obscured the top third of the lenses.
“You said not to do it.”
“That is correct,” I said.
Longest pause ever.
“The rats ate most of the Dots,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “I saw the mess this morning.”
“Right,” he said. “So, I gave a lady a box that I thought was fine, but turned out to be kinda compromised, rat-wise, and she left saying she was going to sue all of us. Like personally. Everyone who works here.”
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve been thinking it over, and I’m just not sure my finances can take that kind of hit right now.”
I took a glance at the cloudless sky above me. There was an airplane inching its way through the blue, leaving a breathy white trail behind it. I imagined myself in an aisle seat, sipping a ginger ale and laughing at a movie I would never pay to watch. I had about five seconds to enjoy this fantasy before I walked to the entrance of the Green Street, shoved open the glass doors, and smelled the stale popcorn and musty carpeting.
“Yo, Wendy!” said Lucas, an international student from the U who worked concessions. “The rats got into the candy again! Your traps aren’t working, my man.”
I passed him without comment, trying to remember if he’d ever actually been hired, or if he’d just walked behind the counter one day in his Bill Murray T-shirt and never left. His mom was American, but he grew up with his dad in Lebanon, watching pirated tapes from the States. He had seen more movies than any of us combined, and he rarely let us forget it.
“He knows, dude,” said Griffin, “And he knows about the lawsuit. Wendy has a lot on his mind right now.”
I left them behind to discuss my mind. Meanwhile, I walked down the main hallway to the storage room where there was probably some kind of massive rat orgy taking place at that very moment. I did this because, even though I am underage and technically too young to be a manager, I am somehow a manager. And even though I haven’t been able to “manage” many things in my own life, I still felt like trying at the Green Street. It was maybe the last place I felt like trying.
Because, if I’m honest, things had been a little rough of recent.
And by “of recent,” I mean the three years since my dad died.
He died just before I turned fourteen, and it’s still hard for me to say it or even write about it without getting
depressed and angry and then depressed again. For now I’ll just say: It was quick and surprising. And afterward, I kind of took a hall pass from life. My grades went south. Things with my mom got weird. And to make matters worse, my best friend moved away. In the years that followed, I kinda stopped thinking about college. And basically the only thing I didn’t give up on entirely was watching movies and doing my job at the Green Street. Which, come to think of it, is probably why Randy made me temporary manager.
That and someone had to deal with the rats.
I opened the door now to the storage room and things were eerily quiet. If my life were a movie, there would have been some slightly out-of-tune violins starting in the background. Maybe a close-up of a single bead of sweat on my forehead. Inside the closet there were boxes of candy that had been knocked from the shelves. Raisinets. Twizzlers. Mike and Ikes. An all-you-can-eat buffet.
On top of the pile was a single rat the size of a small
raccoon. I only slightly exaggerate his size. He was the
rodent king of candy hill. Lord of the Junior Mints. Master of Milk Dud Mountain. His two bottom teeth looked sharpened to kill, and I’m pretty sure he was in a diabetic coma.
“Begone, Brando!” I said.
I had decided to name him Brando (after late career Marlon Brando).
No reaction. I looked at the traps I bought last week:
I picked up a nearby broom, and I was about to take a swing at him when I received another tap on the shoulder. Which caused me to jump and scream louder and higher than I have ever screamed maybe in my life. Griffin dropped his glasses.
“Whoa,” he said. “Sorry, man.”
“Jesus, Griffin!” I yelled when I turned around. “I thought you were a rat.”
He stared at me wide-eyed. He seemed a little frightened at this possibility.
“I’m not,” he said.
I looked over at Brando, but he was long gone.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “What could possibly be so important that you need to interrupt me in the middle of an attempted murder?”
Griffin took his signature pause, reaching down to pick up his glasses.
“There’s a man here with some papers. He says we’re being evicted.”
Once upon a time, when I was younger, Dad and I used to go to the movies.
Like once a week at least when my mom worked Saturdays. It was our day, and we had a ritual. We always got to the theater early enough to see all the previews. We always got one big popcorn to share and two individual boxes of Nerds (our mascot). We always went to the bathroom right before the movie to avoid mid-film emergencies. And when we got inside the theater, we connected straws together so that they could go from the sodas on the floor all the way up to our mouths—that way we would never have to look away. Afterward, we each had to answer two questions.
1) What was the image from the film that we just couldn’t shake?
2) How was the last line?
And the Green Street Cinema is where we went the most.
Dad didn’t like the multiplexes. He thought they were soulless and bland. Besides, the Green Street was right down the street from the university where he taught, and everyone knew him there. The concession guys gave him extra butter. And most Saturdays I got in free. “If that kid can sit through Das Boot,” the cashier once said, “it’s on the house.” I started volunteering there before I was old enough to work, and even before that, I hung around while Dad did his college film screenings.
I would watch him from the back row as he gesticulated in front of the screen, saying outrageous things in his lecture about Rear Window, like, “Clearly Hitchcock is taking on impotence here! Right? Look at that phallic cast on Jefferies! But he can’t do anything!” and ignoring the chuckles that followed. His hair was curly and he didn’t get it cut often enough. Mom used to say he looked like the professor from central casting, but it wasn’t quite that bad. He was surprisingly athletic. He played pickup basketball, and once when I went to the college gym, I saw him sink a jump hook from the free-throw line over the outstretched arm of a winded biology professor. It was a thing of beauty.
But still, he never seemed more at home than at the Green Street. It was his home away from home, and especially after he died, it became mine, too. These days I
usually came in at eight a.m. only to leave at six or seven
that night after every smooshed Milk Dud had been scraped from the floor. I still changed each letter on the antique marquee by hand. And I could feel it in my soul when a spring popped loose on our duct-taped seats.
Which is why my heart nearly stopped when I first held the papers that said we were done. The man holding the papers was from the university’s real estate office, which owned our building. He had a thin beard and a crisp university polo shirt tucked in tight to his slim cut jeans. His eyes were squinty behind a pair of frameless glasses. I looked at the paper on top of the pile, which said:
It was written in the largest font I have ever seen. People could probably see it from space.
“What’s this all about?” I asked.
The man looked down at the gigantic words EVICTION NOTICE. Then he looked back at me. Then he told me what this was all about.
1) The theater was in debt, in excess of $145,000.
2) Randy had mismanaged the budget very badly over the last five years and had missed a lot of grant deadlines that might have kept us afloat.
3) Randy had personally loaned his theater over $75,000, guaranteed against the value of the property, but now he was out of money.
4) This had been a problem for a long time, and why Randy had never told us about it was anyone’s guess.
5) Barring any ability to pay off the debt in full, the university would be forced to demolish the Green Street to make way for a “Residential/Retail establishment.”
Once he was done telling me very clearly what this was all about, the man looked at my name tag, which read, “Wendy.
Manager,” and asked:
“You in charge here, Wendy?”
“I am,” I said.
“How old are you?”
“I am very old,” was my reply.
He squinted at me with his already squinty eyes. Then he looked around the place, as if for the first time. And it might help to know here that the Green Street was last remodeled in 1935. You know, when Franklin Roosevelt was president. It was originally done in an Art Deco style, which should be really cool. Bold colors and wild geometric shapes. But the glamour had faded over the years.
Like literally faded.
We used to have gold wallpaper, but now most of the shine had worn off and it looked like faded tinfoil. The cool old light fixtures hadn’t been wired in years and collected dust on the walls beneath some bad fluorescents. And the concessions counter looked more like an Old Country Buffet than Radio City Music Hall. In short: The Green Street looked like something that used to be awesome, but was now very not-awesome, and possibly full of black mold.
The man took all this in and then turned back to me.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said.
“Free country,” said Griffin from beside me, radiating THC.
I gave him a look. The man’s gaze bounced around the room.
“Does anybody actually come to see movies here?” he asked.
He seemed genuinely curious, like the concept was
totally mind-blowing to him. Before I could say anything, though, Lucas chimed in from behind the counter, stuffing a handful of popcorn in his mouth straight from the
“We cater to an elite clientele,” he said. “True cineastes!”
The man looked at Lucas like he had just blown a particularly foul odor in his direction.
“Ah,” he said. “Cineastes.”
My feelings at the moment were tough to pin down. On one hand, I wanted to murder Lucas for being such a pretentious ass. But I also wanted to hug him for being so wholly himself in the face of this dude. I wanted to start crying. But I also didn’t want to show weakness in front of the enemy. Oddly enough, I also felt like going back into the rat closet. Life had been easier in there.
I was supposed to say something now—that much was clear—but I didn’t know what to say. So, I did what I always do when I don’t know what to say: I quoted a movie. I have a lot of them memorized. All those post-movie discussions with dad had carved them into my mind.
Here’s what I came up with:
“Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!”
The man watched me carefully. Then, after a few seconds, he furrowed his sizable brow, and turned around to walk out the door of the theater. At just that moment, however, Sweet Lou, the organ player happened to be showing up for work. She was very old, and quite large, and she walked with an amazing gold-topped cane. And when the polo man opened the door, Sweet Lou wedged herself past him, stomping out her cigarette on the threadbare carpet of the theater in the process.
“Watch it, honcho,” she said.
Then she walked off. The man looked down at the
smoldering cigarette butt, then at Lou disappearing into the theater, paying him absolutely no attention. He left the building then without uttering another word. When he was gone, Lucas walked over and stood beside me.
“Was that a line from Gladiator?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “It was.”
“Oh,” he said. “Huh.”
Behind us at the concession stand, the popcorn was starting to burn.
Excerpted from "This Book Is Not Yet Rated"
Copyright © 2019 Peter Bognanni.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Originally I added this to my TBR because of the cover. And then I started it later on because of the cover. (I was going to the movies to see Avengers: Endgame, so this cover just made me more excited.) I love books about movies and movies about books. Unfortunately, this one didn't make it to my "love" column. The Green Street Cinema has been around for Ethan's entire life and its always felt like somewhere he can go when he has no where else. But when developers in the area are looking to tear it down to put condos in its place, Ethan decides he wants to do save it, as he is the acting manager. It's going to be much harder than it sounds being so much in debt and all the health codes they're violating. All the employees have to work together and try to save this place they have all grown to care about. My biggest complaint about this one was the plot. I don't mind contemporaries where there's no romance as long as there is something huge that happens. This one had no such thing. It followed the synopsis exactly and SPOILER they don't even end up saving it. I thought there was going to be some outrageous thing that happens where they get to keep it, but no. It literally went exactly as the synopsis says. END SPOILER However, I did like Ethan and knowing more about him and his life. (Although for half the book I forgot what his real name was...) I liked the way he was trying to keep the place alive just as he was doing his dad's memory. It was a sweet gesture that just went south. I also liked Raina because she didn't let the fame go to her head and she seemed just as sweet and down to earth as Ethan was. I was glad they had each other, as friends and maybe something more in the end. This contemporary was just ok and didn't give me anything to write home about. I was satisfied, but not impressed. It was an easy read but I'm not sure I would pick it up again.
I absolutely loved the premise of this and was so excited to read it. I liked Ethan well enough. He’s sort of struggling and maybe a little stagnant in his life, but he was easy to root for at the start. There’s a pretty interesting set of characters here and yet at the same time, no one stood out. We didn’t get much backstory on anyone but Ethan. Plot wise, it was sort of boring. It was a lot of trying to figure things out with a very slow build until the end. The story didn’t go in the direction I was expecting, but I liked the ideas of personal growth and moving on. The movie set up info at the start of each chapter and the excessive paragraphs of movies being detailed pushed me out of the story every time and I found myself skimming. Overall, the found family is one of my favorites, especially when it’s a sort of group of misfits. Sadly, this story lacked a spark I was looking for. At the time I’m writing this, there are loads of high reviews, so it seems it just wasn’t for me. **Huge thanks to Dial Books for providing the arc free of charge**
I really enjoyed reading this book. This book first got my attention with its eye-catching cover and great title. After reading the book's description, I knew that I had to give this book a try and I am glad that I did. Once I started reading this book, the pages seemed to fly by and before I knew I had finished the entire book in a single morning. It really was the perfect book to lose myself in for just a little while. Ethan loves movies. His life has been filled with movies and watches at least one movie every day. Ethan works at the small Green Street Cinema, which is not your average theatre. Ethan actually serves the role of manager at the theatre since the real boss has been missing in action for some time. This theatre plays lesser-known films and caters to a certain clientele and has more a few issues. Ethan was a great character. He has had a hard time dealing with his father's sudden death just a few years earlier. He has really been in a holding pattern with the cinema being his refuge. I liked Ethan more and more as the story progressed and I learned more of his history. It was great to see him start to deal with the things going on in his life. Ethan was best friends with a girl named Raina when he was younger. This was before she was discovered by an agent and was thrust into stardom. When she finds that fame isn't exactly what she wanted, she goes home and is suddenly back in her old friend's life. I liked Raina. She was really down to earth and had her own issues to deal with. I thought that Ethan and Raina were good for each other and loved how they came together to work on a problem. When the cinema is scheduled to close, Ethan and the rest of the crew work to find a way to keep it going. I loved the quirky group of characters that worked at the theatre. They were all very different but as a group, they worked well together. The cinema almost felt like another character with all of its flaws, including a rather large rodent issue. I would recommend this book to others. I thought that this was a very well written story about finding yourself while fighting for the things you care about and learning to move on. The book is filled with great movie quotes and references that add to the charm of the story. I would not hesitate to read more of Peter Bognanni's writing in the future. I received a review copy of this book from Penguin Publishing Group - Dial Books.
I was super excited to read this book from the description especially since fans of John Green will appreciate this book, so this book will definitely fit for all nerd-fighters everywhere. I must say this book delivered on that. We have a movie geek that wishes life was like the movies, a supporting cast (his friends) and a heroine (his old friend/potential girlfriend). He feels that everything is going well but when his friend returns from Hollywood and has uncovered many secrets in the industry, the boy has lost his magic. After the realization that life is not always like the movies and things will work out if they are supposed to. I absolutely loved this book and was hooked from the first page. I know young readers and nerd-fighters will unite and love this book too. We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.